Marketing a niche business

Marketing any business has its challenges. It requires strategic thinking to determine target demographics, appropriate messaging and more. These challenges grow for businesses that offer a niche service. The size of your demographic diminishes immensely and most laypeople may not understand your line of work.

Tioga Environmental Consultants provides environmental services such as regulatory compliance, hazardous building materials inspections and remediation, groundwater and soil sampling, and natural resource impact assessments. We don’t serve mass consumer groups, and the businesses we do serve are a narrow clientele. Our clients include industrial manufacturers, land developers, contractors, architects and engineers.

So, how do we market our services and win new business if the client pool is so narrow and specific? Yes, it’s far more challenging than promoting an iPhone, but there are several efforts you can make that are worthwhile and effective.

Speak their language.

When you’re in a niche industry, it’s OK to get a bit more technical in your language. As environmental consultants, we regularly discuss complicated topics such as environmental regulations, permitting requirements and hazardous contaminants. Laypeople may not deal with these issues every day but our clients do. Remember who you’re targeting. It’s important to thoroughly explain how your services make your clients’ jobs easier, but you shouldn’t have to dumb it down for them either. Relate to them at their level and they’ll soon realize the need to hire you.

Position yourself as the expert.

At first, niche services can seem complicated to those considering hiring you. It’s important to market yourself as the expert in your field and set yourself apart from your competition. You’ll build more credibility and you’ll gain trust from target clients. There are several methods to showcasing your expertise: write articles on your company blog, offer yourself as a source to journalists who cover your industry, lead presentations and speaking engagements, or write and submit an opinion editorial for a local or trade publication discussing a topic in your field. The more knowledge you share about your field, the more you will earn people’s buy-in. After all, they’re hiring you because you are the expert!

Maintain relationships.

Working in a niche industry narrows down your client pool. That’s why it’s important to maintain and strengthen relationships with all of your clients, from prospective targets to long-term partners. Sometimes people will hire you for a minor month-long project and that’s it. Don’t immediately brush them off when the project wraps. They may not hire you right away for that $50,000 job, but in a couple years maybe they will have an opportunity. If you stay in touch with them, you’ll always be included in the pool of consideration. Keeping in contact doesn’t require you wining and dining clients every month. It can include dropping a birthday or holiday card in the mail or the occasional email or call to say hello. Visibility is essential to any client relationship. Even with those you’ve served for years, you can never take them for granted or get too comfortable. Treat every client like they’re a first-time client. You’ll be so busy working that you won’t have time to notice the limited client pool in your niche market.

By Maggie Strom, QEP, CHMM
Founder and president, Tioga Environmental Consultants